When we consider wrestling with God, Jacob may come to mind as an example from Scripture. On his way home after years spent serving Laban and his family, he heard from Laban that Esau planned to kill him because of past misdeeds he committed against Jacob. Fearful for his life, Jacob sent his family and possessions ahead and set up camp alone.
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What does it mean to wrestle with God?
The story of Jacob wrestling with God is an engaging one, full of layers of meaning: Jacob is seen as both God incarnate, as well as engaging in an act of wrestling which connotes intimacy, struggle, blessings and identity – while its literary details provide ample room for interpretation of its tale.
Jacob had recently returned from twenty years sojourn in Paddan-aram and was terrified about meeting up with Esau after two decades apart. To avoid confrontation he sent all of his servants ahead while remaining alone in his tent to pray and seek wisdom from God; while praying a physical manifestation appeared to Jacob who then wrestled all night with Him before departing in peace.
God seemed to do something unusual by wrestling with Jacob to help him overcome his fears. Instead of simply speaking through dreams or visions and comforting him directly, instead he engaged him directly to help Jacob work through them.
Jacob learned a valuable lesson during this wrestling match – that without God he can never survive without His blessing, and He honored that surrender by giving him a new name, “Israel”, which represented his triumph over sin and human deceitfulness.
Keep wrestling until He blesses you, just as Jacob did. Though He may hurt at first, He will always remain true to His promises and bless you with what you need – much like Jacob did (Genesis 32:28). Jon Bloom currently serves as a teacher at DesiringGod and has written several books, such as Not by Sight and True to His Word – alongside raising five children of his own with his wife.
How do I start wrestling?
The Bible chronicles Jacob’s struggle with God as he traveled back to Canaan after fleeing Laban’s deceitfulness. On his way he would meet Esau who had promised to kill him; Jacob knew this meeting could prove fatal for him and sent everyone ahead while staying alone all night in prayerful solitude for protection from Esau. Additionally he asked Him for His blessing as well; knowing He needed all his trust before proceeding forward with life.
God chose a different path than usual when answering his prayers; rather than speaking directly, He decided instead to wrestle with him! I found it fascinating that when He wanted to talk, He often chose wrestling as his means. Perhaps this pattern has its place in scripture for communicating His message: He often uses confrontation or challenge as means.
If you begin wrestling with God, it is crucial that you stay engaged until it benefits both of you. Doing this is known as having “tenacious faith”, and is something He appreciates greatly.
Wrestling should not be seen as something negative. Instead, it can help develop body strength, power and self-confidence while strengthening character traits.
Next time you find yourself wrestling with God, remember it’s an opportunity for him to teach you his ways and strengthen both your faith and character. While wrestling may initially feel cumbersome or painful, don’t give up- keep wrestling until he blesses you with his blessings!
Jon Bloom is a teaching pastor at Desiring God and author of Not by Sight: Living Faithfully Before Our Eyes. His blog can be found at JonBloom.org while on Twitter @Bloom_Jon can be found.
Why do I need to wrestle?
Wrestling with God can be challenging and emotional, yet essential for developing an intimate and authentic relationship with Him. Ask Him questions when something doesn’t make sense to you; share when you’re experiencing difficulties or feeling discouraged; He wants to help, yet may meet you in different ways than expected or desired.
One such instance can be seen in Jacob’s encounter with God in Genesis 32. After twenty years in exile, Jacob returned home with his family; but was terrified because Esau, his brother who had promised to kill him because of their past duplicity, had come with 400 men to bring down Jacob. God provided an unlikely solution.
So Jacob decided to go into hiding, with the goal of praying to God for a blessing. After seeking refuge in an obscure place and wrestling for hours with what turned out to be God, He blessed Jacob.
What makes this story so profoundly significant is how it illustrates that for any relationship to flourish with God, even when it feels painful, we must engage Him directly and knowingly. Jacob asked God for a blessing and battled against Him for it – evidence that He wanted Jacob’s needs met by Him!
Jacob had already earned the blessings of God; now it was time for them to bless him as promised. Through wrestling with Him, Jacob came to realize he no longer needed deception and lies to get ahead; instead he must accept and trust His love.
What issues need to be discussed with God today? Spend some time reading your Bible and praying, opening up to Him about your struggles while receiving His grace through worship! And never forget the importance of celebrating our God as it truly does realign our perspectives!
What happens when I wrestle?
Sometimes God blesses after an extended and often painful wrestling match, like it happened with Jacob in Genesis 32. On his journey home from Laban’s deception but fearing Esau, whom he had previously betrayed and tricked; Esau had threatened his life due to their past misdeeds so Jacob decided to stay behind while his wives and children went ahead in order to protect his family; later that night he wrestled a man until daybreak (Genesis 32:24).
The Bible records a man wrestling all night with Jacob, yet we don’t know whether this encounter was physical or spiritual in nature; all we can speculate on is that Jacob later refers to this being as “God”. Walter Brueggemann describes this tale as being both puzzling and intriguing with many interpretive possibilities.
One may mistake the meaning of wrestling as simply being physical force between Jacob and an adversary, or using aggressive moves against him. Yet it’s more significant to understand it as God showing up when we feel afraid or anguished – sometimes appearing like our opponent and prompting us to face off against him, only for it all to end with blessings and renewed faith for Jacob!
The Bible teaches us that we can turn to God for wisdom and guidance when we’re feeling lost or confused, with repentant hearts in mind. God knows our needs better than anyone, so trusting him with them will only serve you well in life’s journey ahead. Learn to come before Him when in need – He’ll provide it all and more than we ever could ask or imagine!